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Here comes EJ


Teary-eyed Obiena surpasses 6-meter mark

PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF EJ OBIENA | EJ Obiena (right) credits his coach, Vitaly Petrov, for helping him surpass the six-meter barrier during the Sparebanken Vest Bergen Jump Challenge in Norway.

EJ Obiena achieved yet another milestone when he finally shattered the six-meter barrier en route to winning the gold medal in the men’s pole vault competition of the Sparebanken Vest Bergen Jump Challenge in Norway last Saturday.

The 27-year-old Obiena pulled off arguably one of the greatest performances in Philippine sports when he cleared the bar set at 6.0 meters in just one try to shatter the Asian record of 5.94 meters and survive the challenge thrown by Americans KC Lightfoot and Sam Kendricks.

Lightfoot, who reset the North American record of 6.07 meters in Nashville a few weeks ago, also notched 6.0 meters but settled for the silver medal as he needed two attempts while Kendricks took home the bronze with 5.88 meters. Piotr Lisek of Poland and Ben Broeders of Belgium emerged fourth with identical 5.76 meters.

Both Obiena and Lightfoot also tried to clear 6.06 meters but failed in three attempts.

‘It took a few moments to sink in. But when it did, tears began to fall.’

Still, winning the gold was just the icing on the cake.

With the victory, Obiena became the only Asian and the 26th pole vaulter in the world to surpass the six-meter barrier since Ukrainian legend Sergey Bubka did the trick on 13 June 1985 in a tournament in Paris.

Bubka’s coach when he achieved the feat — Vitaly Petrov — is also the same mentor who is now guiding Obiena.

Only 11 countries in the world are represented in the ultra exclusive circle with Armand Duplantis at the helm after posting a world-record of 6.19 meters in a tournament in Belgrade last year.

Also part of the group are Obiena’s training partner in former Olympic champion Thiago Braz of Brazil, Kendricks, Lightfoot and Timor Morgunov of Russia.

Obiena credited Petrov for pushing him to the limit and putting him in top condition as he shoots for a slot in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It took a few moments to sink in. But when it did, tears began to fall. There was no greater shoulder to cry on than my coach, Vitaly. Couldn’t have done it without you,” said Obiena, the world’s No. 5 pole vaulter, in a social media post shortly after accomplishing the feat.

“Still a lot of work ahead and still a long season. Just happy and proud to be part of the 6m Club.”

The Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association was elated over Obiena’s feat, saying that surpassing the six-meter barrier gives him a psychological advantage as he heads for major international tournaments ahead like the Asian Athletics Championships, World Athletics Championships and the 19th Asian Games in China in September.

“We’re very happy since it’s a historical event,” Patafa secretary general Edward Kho told Daily Tribune in a message.

“In relation to the forthcoming championships like the Asian Athletics Championships, the World Athletics Championships and the Asian Games, it’s a great confidence-kicker for him, especially in the Asian circuit. EJ already has a psychological advantage but now it’s like he has another ace on his sleeve.”

Kho said the best is yet to come as far as Obiena’s performance is concerned.

“He’s not peaking yet because from what I know from their preparations, he is focused on the Asian Championships,” Kho said.

“If he is using the Asian Championships as a prelude to his peaking, the six-meter jump is just the foot of the mountain for EJ.”

Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino also congratulated Obiena, who is expected to receive cash incentives from the Philippine Sports Commission on top of the prize money from the tournament.

“Congratulations EJ Obiena. Welcome to the elite 6m club!” Tolentino said.

“We are so proud of you! Cheers as well to Coach Vitaly Petrov”

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